Alarming News

October 14, 2006

Welcome to America, leave your Sharia expectations at the door

Cabbies, Muslim Culture Clash at Minneapolis Airport:

Scores of Muslim cabdrivers in Minneapolis who say their faith prohibits them from driving passengers with alcohol have sparked a debate over how far a government must go to accommodate Islamic law. Muslim cabdrivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have been refusing to take passengers who carry wine or spirits from duty-free stores or who are loaded down with bottles after visiting wine country.

They’ve also asked dispatchers not to call them to pick up passengers heading to liquor stores and bars.

The drivers, whose beliefs are not shared by all Muslims, say the airport should accommodate a deeply held religious tenet. Others say the Muslims are discriminating against people of other faiths and attempting to impose Islamic law.

Ya. I’m with the “others” on this one.

(Hat-tip: The visiting Jakes of Minnesota with whom we are having a phenomenal time.)

Posted by Karol at 05:14 PM |
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I raised this question on my blog a couple of days ago.
When a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription because of a personal objection, it’s okay. But when a cab driver refuses to take a fare because of a personal objection, it’s not?
I’d really like somebody to explain this in a way that doesn’t boil down to “some personal objections are more equal than others.”

Posted by: Jeff Harrell at October 14, 2006 at 7:27 pm

There are a limited number of hack licenses. They are granted with the condition that you will not discriminate.

Posted by: jay at October 15, 2006 at 7:25 am

Yes — with Jeff on this one — clearly a divergence from the typical conservative line. Guessing because it’s Muslims in question.
I’d love to see how conservatives would react about Christian cab drivers not wanting to take people to an abortion clinic.

Posted by: lange at October 15, 2006 at 9:24 am

Take the next cab, infidels.

Posted by: Michael at October 15, 2006 at 9:34 am

I assure you this whole situation can be cleared up on the taxi’s job application. A one liner: Will you discriminate against anyone seeking a fare? Explain. If the box is checked yes they do not get hired, if they check no and refuse to give a ride to ANYONE they get fired.
I suspect that in the future there will be fewer Muslim cabbies.

Posted by: tonynoboloney at October 15, 2006 at 10:43 am

Will you discriminate against anyone seeking a fare?
I believe it’s already in the application for a hack license.

Posted by: jay at October 15, 2006 at 11:17 am

A) Story’s a couple weeks old, ain’t it?
B) I think Jeff has a point.

Posted by: ken at October 15, 2006 at 11:54 am

I’d say it entirely depends: are Minneapolis cabs a city-owned business, like they are in New York? Or are they run by private businesses, like they are in Boston? If it’s the former, then for Muslim cabdrivers to discriminate is bad practice and most possibly illegal as well. If it’s the latter, then it’s an internal matter for each cab company, and not cause for alarm; the free market could be expected to take care of it.

Posted by: Yaron at October 15, 2006 at 1:54 pm

While Jeff raises a fair question, it is Jay who hits the nail on the head with his response.
See, while taxi companies are privately held & operated, they are in a sense, a public utility.
There are only a certain number of taxis granted licenses to be on the road, and a license to operate is incumbent upon adhering to the laws, including those laws regarding discrimination.
Individual taxi drivers may not use their religion to discriminate against the public.
If a taxi driver’s religion prohibits his conscience from serving all of the public as legally required, then that person is better off seeking employment in another line of work.
And society would be better served, as well.
It is different from the example of a pharmacy.
While pharmacies must adhere to the law of not discriminating against PEOPLE (i.e., it is illegal to say, “I won’t fill a prescription for a black person that I would fill for a white person, etc.), the pharmacy in this case is choosing to NOT STOCK A PRODUCT.
And the absence of selling that product applies equally to ALL people.

Posted by: BadBoyInASuit at October 15, 2006 at 3:15 pm

Well, Bad Boy, what about the pharmacist who refuses to fill the prescription and then further refuses to return the prescription to the patient to get filled elsewhere? This isn’t hypothetical; it’s the story where I first heard of the refuse-to-fill problem.
Anyway: explain all you want: what it sounds like at this end is, “I need to find some way to rationalize my double standard.”

Posted by: Michael at October 15, 2006 at 5:05 pm

If when a pharmacist informs a customer that he does not stock the contraceptive prescribed and meanwhile fails to RETURN that prescription to the customer, that is both wrong, and illegal.
But sir, it sounds like you did not carefully read my post.
I don’t have a double standard; I explained a standard which applies to EVERYONE.
And just because person “X” gets away with breaking the law, it does not entitle persons “Y” and “Z” to circumvent the law.
We’re a nation governed by laws, rather than emotions.
Respectfully yours.

Posted by: BadBoyInASuit at October 15, 2006 at 5:41 pm

I did read the post. I understood it thoroughly. I think, nonetheless, that it was a rationalization, and I think that your outrage has more to do with anti-Islamic mania than anything else. Maybe I’m wrong.

Posted by: Michael at October 15, 2006 at 5:55 pm

Michael: There was no “outrage” in BadBoy’s post. He gave you a legal analysis.

Posted by: jay at October 15, 2006 at 6:20 pm

I live in Minneapolis,so I think I know a little about this.
To those that believe that this is similar to privately owned pharmacy refusing to fill prescriptions, that analogy is false. A pharmacy is a private business, the taxis and their drivers at the airport are under direct government control by the Metropolitan Airport Commission which regulates taxis and drivers through licensing and enforcement. The Commission is composed of public officers selected by government officials and the MAC has regulatory powers and enforcement abilities which is, by any definition, a government function.
The Commission regulates everything related to the airport, like what business may operate within the airport and how these business’s operate. Taxis are a business that is regulated by the MAC. Taxis can not just pull up to the airport and pick up passengers, they must have a license issued by the MAC. The taxi driver’s behavior is regulated, as are the taxi’s they operate.
The situation we have here are taxi drivers who are ignoring the regulations that apply to all drivers when they refuse to pick up passengers who “insult” the driver’s religious beliefs. By refusing to pick up passengers because they carry alcohol on their persons or are even simply suspected of carrying alcohol, the drivers are discriminating based on religion, in this case the religion of the drivers themselves. That’s not allowed according to MAC regulations. This is why drivers that refuse to carry these passengers are sent to the back of the cue and must wait till all other taxis in the cue pick up passengers. This is a form of punishment and is within the enforcement capabilities of the MAC. It tends to force the drivers to lose income by having to wait several hours before they have a paying customer and is an effective form of punishment. The drivers want this to stop so they can refuse a passenger and not be punished by being forced to wait. That would be a big mistake as this would lead to further discrimination in the future.
If the MAC caves in on this and allows the drivers to discriminate without some form of punishment, then they are allowing religious convictions to apply to a heavily regulated business transactions in a manner that is not allowed by state and federal statutes. If the taxi drivers don’t want to cater to infidels, which is what they are actually doing, then they should not pick up passengers at the airport.
Remember, this is NOT a private business refusing to serve customers, this is a government sanctioned service to the public and is heavily regulated. Do we really want any government office to say that religious discrimination should be allowed? I think not.

Posted by: Ray at October 15, 2006 at 7:32 pm

Nice post.
Surely this boils down to the fact that while religious, political, social beliefs are all well and good we live in a practical world where we cannot always act accordingly.
Example I absolutely hate racism and have a tendency to be vocal in opposition when I come across it. Last monday at work a customer asked me “what happend to that paki manager” In the street or uni or anywhere else I’d have taken the woman to task over such a comment but as I was in a work environment had to keep it buttoned.
If a muslim driver doesnt want to have to pick up people who may be drinking, under the influence of or merely carrying or heading to collect alcohol the answer is simple. Don’t drive taxis. religious respect and tolerance should go both ways and while I am something of a relativist I do think there is too much of the “you have to respect our culture and beliefs but screw you and yours” attitude around.
Lastly alcohol is GOOD for taxi drivers. someone completely off their face is less likely to be able to count change accurately!!! Alcohol influenced customers, potential money maker.

Posted by: Nick at October 15, 2006 at 7:55 pm

Whether a cab company is publicly or privately owned, the drivers have to adhere to company policy which I doubt conforms to Sharia law. Same thing with a pharmacy. I doubt Walgreen’s would look fondly upon a pharmacist refusing to sell a product to a customer based on his/her own belief system. If a Mom and Pop pharmacy desides not to carry that product, it’s a different story. Same as a Mom and Pop Islamic cab company (or a Pop and Mom in this case), they can set their own rules to who they will and won’t transport in their cabs. This is just common sense.

Posted by: Dino at October 15, 2006 at 10:05 pm

Same as a Mom and Pop Islamic cab company (or a Pop and Mom in this case), they can set their own rules to who they will and won’t transport in their cabs.
Not quite. It is a regulated business. A cab company can not operate with out a municipal license. In order to obtain a license, you have to agree to not discriminate.
If MAC really wants to put an end to it, they should start yanking licenses or personally fineing the companies and drivers.

Posted by: jay at October 15, 2006 at 10:13 pm

I think the pharmacist and the cabbies are wrong to impose their views onto others. However, I do think that if either group choose to lose trade, custom and goodwill for their beliefs, that’s their loss. I’m really not sure where this not carry alcohol thing has come from, because, where I live, there would be very few cabs if the muslims did this. Is this because it’s Ramadan?

Posted by: bryan at October 15, 2006 at 11:26 pm

It is a regulated business. A cab company can not operate with out a municipal license.
Are you somehow under the impression that the sale of prescription pharmaceuticals is not a regulated business?

Posted by: Charles at October 16, 2006 at 1:39 am

Are you somehow under the impression that the sale of prescription pharmaceuticals is not a regulated business?
Are you somehow under the impression that the sale of prescripton pharmaceuticals requires a hack license???

Posted by: jay at October 16, 2006 at 4:27 am

I suggest that to counteract tese attitudes, we start calling any city where there is a conflict of this nature, we start to make a point of changing the official titles of cities.
For instance, Since minneapolis will be hosting the convention, we call it “The Holy City of Minneapolis” thereby negating their religious arguments.
Same with every city with more than 100K people.
Seeing as how that is the basic method of all islamic countries when forcing these norms onto others.
No turbans in the “holy city of washingtong DC”
No veils in the Holy City of miami.
These are BASIC TENETS of Democracy.
And don’t get me started of the holy land of America.

Posted by: Wickedpinto at October 16, 2006 at 5:02 am

So … should devout Muslim cab drivers, licensed by the city, be allowed to forbid unmarried men and women from riding in their taxi? What about demanding that women be modest and wear veils as a condition of riding?

Posted by: Joe Grossberg at October 16, 2006 at 10:16 am

Are you somehow under the impression that the sale of prescripton pharmaceuticals requires a hack license???
Are you really choosing to be this stupid? No, it requires a pharmacists license. Issued by the government, which can then decide that failure to provide prescription contraceptives because “it violates personal religious beliefs” is inconsistent with the requirements of the occupation being licensed.
Are you with me now?

Posted by: Charles at October 16, 2006 at 10:27 am

Jay, I didn’t know that about municipal licenses and discrimination. Having worked retail years ago, I know that you don’t do anything to upset the customers which is severely frowned upon by management. However, all businesses have certain rules that may rub customers the wrong way.
As to what others are saying, I don’t see how a pharmacist who chooses not to stock contraceptives is discriminating against anyone. That’s like crying discrimination because they also don’t sell Cheez Doodles. Now if a pharmacist chose whom they wanted to sell contraceptives to and whom they didn’t want to sell them to, that would be discrimination. The same as a cab driver who lets personal religious beliefs dictate who gets a ride or not, when it goes against company policy. Really, the pharmacist and the muslim cabbie are not only incomparable, but a totally ridiculous analogy.

Posted by: Dino at October 16, 2006 at 11:23 am

Hey joe? Should corner stores be allowed to refuse to sell condoms to unmarried men and women? Should hassid store owners be allowed to keep out women who aren’t wearing long sleeves? I say no, but you need to square being against what the cabbies are doing with being ok with pharmacies not selling emergency contraception. And so does Karol.

Posted by: Sam L. at October 16, 2006 at 11:27 am

Are you really choosing to be this stupid?
I could say the same thing about you, but yours is not a choice

Posted by: jay at October 16, 2006 at 11:39 am

I have to go with BBIAS on this one – in my original Libertarian argument, I didn’t consider that Minneapolis would set a strict limit on the number of taxi licenses. Given that it does, taxis function more like a public good than a private one, so the discrimination *is* a problem.
Minneapolis could solve the issue just by dropping that limit – companies that were known to discriminate would then presumably suffer the economic consequences – but for one reason or another I’m guessing that’ll never happen. Fear of congestion, maybe?

Posted by: Yaron at October 16, 2006 at 1:39 pm

Ooh, I mean small-l libertarian, dammit.

Posted by: Yaron at October 16, 2006 at 1:40 pm

Are you somehow under the impression that the sale of prescription pharmaceuticals is not a regulated business?
Charles, A pharmaceutical license has no provisions as to when an employee can and can not refuse service to a customer, a taxi license does. The license for taxi’s require that a driver accept any passenger requesting service unless that passenger is a physical threat to the driver. By refusing to carry passengers because a passenger offend the religious sensibilities of the driver, that driver is violating the terms of that licensing agreement.
When a pharmacist refused to fill a prescription base on that pharmacist’s religious beliefs, that pharmacist is not violating a licensing requirement, although he or she may be violating company policy.
That’s the biggest difference between the two scenarios. One is violating the licensing requirement, the taxi driver, and on is not, the pharmacist. While both are wrong in the sense that no one should be refused service because of the personal beliefs of the proprietor, that proprietor must abide by the licensing agreement or pay the appropriate penalty.

Posted by: Ray at October 16, 2006 at 6:02 pm

But there’s a difference. Taxi service is a regulated monopoly, and pharmacies aren’t.
Personally, I don’t think there’s any legitimate reason to limit the number of hack licenses. Regulation should be limited to ensuring the transparency of the transaction between hack and customer. But if you’re gonna gonna place a limit on the number of medallions, and you fix prices, you’ve made a regulated monopoly. So that means more rules to make sure customers aren’t mistreated.
The city was willing to compromise and allow the cab to refuse a customer and go to the end of the airport line. I thought that was a fair solution. You don’t like this customer? Fine, but the price you pay is waiting in the 30 minute line for another one. That establishes an economic incentive for drivers to keep their outrage in check.
As far as the pharmacies are concerned, I haven’t been keeping up. I think it’s perfectly legitimate for a pharmacist to refuse to dispense a medication. And it’s also legitimate for his employer to fire him for it.
Michael’s point about the pharmacist not returning the prescription is a red herring. That’s clearly illegal and unlikely to become legal any time soon.

Posted by: Eric at October 16, 2006 at 6:07 pm

Minneapolis could solve the issue just by dropping that limit – companies that were known to discriminate would then presumably suffer the economic consequences – but for one reason or another I’m guessing that’ll never happen. Fear of congestion, maybe?
Part of it is fear of congestion, part of it is that fact that taxi’s are inspected regularly in Minneapolis (and other cities as well)and there is not enough personnel and time to inspect more taxi’s without a huge increase in the budget, and the biggest part is the fact that the taxi companies don’t want additional competition as this would put a lot of drivers out of business due to lowered fairs and substandard taxi’s. At least that’s the only reason I can figure out. The licensing board doesn’t explain this very well.
There is lot of pressure to allow additional taxi’s in Minneapolis, but the city government, and MAC, refuses to allow additional licensing. As to the actual reasons for this, your guess is as good as mine.

Posted by: Ray at October 16, 2006 at 6:15 pm

Well, in Minnesota at least, it’s considered “unprofessional conduct” for a pharmacist to refuse to dispense a prescription (with the explicit exception of the abortion pill). (These rules are incorporated into Minnesota law by statute.)
If you’re willing to say it’s reasonable to let a Minnesota pharmacist refuse to dispense birth control for religious reasons in contravention of the applicable regulations but it’s unreasonable for a taxi driver to do the same, you can’t avoid making a judgment of some kind about the legitimacy of the religious belief at issue.

Posted by: Alceste at October 16, 2006 at 6:26 pm

In Minnesota, as Alceste points out, a pharmacist is not allowed to refuse filling a prescription except for the abortion pill. A prescription is not need to provide other forms of birth control, like condoms, so refusing to sell or stock condoms or other forms of birth control is not a violation of any license in the state of Minnesota. As others have said, this is a red herring.
Refusing to carry passengers because of any religious belief is a violation of a licensing agreement. That’s the whole issue here. It’s not about whether people should or should not be allowed to make value based judgments in what customers they will serve or what products they will carry, it’s about a violation of a license requirement in a regulated business.

Posted by: Ray at October 16, 2006 at 7:28 pm

It is not allowed for Minnesota pharmacies and their employees to refuse to sell prescription medication because of the religious belief of the licensee or the customer. The same is true for the taxi drivers, they can not refuse to serve a customer because of the drivers religious beliefs or the beliefs of their passengers. Therefore, in the case of Minnesota, the argument that it is ok in one circumstance but not another is an incorrect assumption. This type of discrimination is not allowed in ether case.
The taxi drivers in this case are discriminating in violation of their licensing requirements, the pharmacies are not as no evidence of this type of discrimination has been offered. Therefor, any comparison between the two cases is not valid, and makes for a poor argument. The question is, then, why do people keep making the same false comparison?

Posted by: Ray at October 16, 2006 at 7:51 pm

That is question begging, Ray. There is an abortifacient exception to the MN statute because of religious objections. That one accomodation is current law (because of the wishes of, let’s be honest here, Christians*) and another is desired law (by the Muslim cab drivers) says nothing about whether the refusals to break with religious doctrine are different from one another.
Whether the cab drivers were or were not breaking the law is the real red herring – it appears undisputed that they were. The real question is whether they deserve an accomodation similar to the one granted to Christian pharmacists or if the pharmacists should have to dispense all prescription pharmaceuticals. It is just as simple (legally speaking, if not politically) to remove the abortifacient exception from the pharmacy law as it would be to add an exception permitting cab drivers to refuse to ferry alcohol.
I have no more interest in living under The Old and New Testaments than I do in living under sharia law. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
* Before the inevitable response that not only Christians object to abortion, just as the current pharmacy law allows non-Christian objectors to refuse to dispense the pill, the “Muslim” cabbie exception could be used by members of the Minnesota Temperance Society.

Posted by: Charles at October 16, 2006 at 7:56 pm

Oh please Charles. You have little understanding of Minnesota statutes concerning this. The provision is not to placate Christian beliefs. Here is the relevant section:
145.414 Abortion not mandatory.
No person and no hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion for any reason.
The law states that a person can not be forced to perform or assist in an abortion. That means a pharmacist may, if he or she choses, to refuse to provide the abortion pill as this would force the pharmacist in assisting an abortion IN VIOLATION of state law.
The is not about the state summiting to someones religious beliefs, it’s about being forced to assist in a medical procedure in violation to one’s will. What’s so hard to understand about that? Also, how does that relate to the refusal of taxi drivers to serve passengers simply because they are carrying a legally obtained product that the driver finds objectionable?

Posted by: Ray at October 16, 2006 at 8:22 pm

You still haven’t addressed my point about taxis being regulated monopolies, whereas pharmacies are not.
I find the idea that certain kinds of businesses should be forced to offer products kind of ridiculous. Would you fine the local mini-mart if they didn’t want to sell beer?

Posted by: Eric at October 16, 2006 at 8:33 pm

If I understand you correctly, you believe that any law that apparently is based in Christian, or any other religious, beliefs should not be mandatory. What about the religious conscriptions against things like murder (Thou shall not kill), or theft (Thou shall not steal), or even perjury (Thou shall not lie)? Do we negate any law simply because that law apparently follows religious conventions? If that’s the case, why have laws at all, since most laws have parallels in one or another religious tenet?
You may feel uncomfortable living in a land that has laws similar to those found in a religious setting, but the laws are in place to regulate and control human behavior and not as a means to promote religious teachings. Without such laws, this world would be a terrible place to inhabit indeed.
This whole argument is a red herring. Here’s the fact that you refuse to accept. The taxi drivers in this case are violating a licensing requirement and they are facing punishment by being sent to the end of the queue. The drivers want this punishment to cease in an attempt to force their religious beliefs on others. They want statute changed to allow for their religious beliefs and to discriminate against others who do not follow their religious constraints.
Th pharmacist are not violating a licensing requirement and thus are not facing punishment. They are not asking for licensing requirements to change and therefor they are not trying to force a religious belief on others.
You may not like the statutes that regulate taxi and pharmacy licensing in this state, but you also do not have to live in the state on Minnesota and therefor are not being forced to accept any religious belief. No one is forcing you to accept any religious beliefs in this state or any other.

Posted by: Ray at October 16, 2006 at 8:59 pm

I think some are missing the point that we go to the pharmacy to buy medicines that are necessities to our getting well. Birth control pills are neither medicinal, nor necessities. A pharmacy is under no obligation to supply non-medicinal products, nor non-necessities.
A cab company operates under no such principles. But to be fair, cabbies can refuse a drunk person a ride because they fear the drunk will vomit in the backseat, and the cabbie will have to clean it. But that’s a far cry from carrying people with an unopened bottle of alcohol, or just anyone coming out of a bar.

Posted by: Dino at October 16, 2006 at 9:36 pm
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